Shirabu Onsen: A quiet time surrounded by pure white snow
Located in Yonezawa City, Yamagawa Prefecture, Shirabu Onsen is a long-established onsen with a history of more than 700 years. Featuring a clear and colorless sulfur spring with various healthful effects, it has been one of the popular places for hydropathic treatment in the Tohoku Area for a long time. Several onsen inns are located in a village nestled among the scenic mountains, offering unique and original ways to enjoy onsen, including an onsen waterfall using hot spring water naturally gushing out and a stone-made open-air onsen that blends into the surrounding nature. In this area, you can walk around and visit different onsen facilities.
Located at an altitude of 900 meters, the area around Shirabu Onsen is a great place to enjoy various outdoor activities, including climbing at Mount Nishiazuma, one of the “100 Best Mountains” in Japan, and strolling in Tengendai Kogen Plateau in summer and skiing at Tengendai Ski area in winter. With a clear stream of the Otaru River near the onsen town, you can see the powerful flow of Shirabu-ootaki Falls from melted snow water from spring to summer and enjoy fishing at the mountain stream. It is especially recommended to visit this area in winter, when you can see unique shapes of trees completely covered with ice, called “snow monsters.” The town itself is covered with snow and one of the onsen inns, “Higashiya Ryokan,” offers “yukimi-roten” (snow-viewing bath), an open-air onsen bath surrounded by snow walls as high as two meters. As the onsen water can keep its high temperature even if it is surrounded by snow, you can enjoy immersing yourself into the onsen without feeling cold.
Tengendai Ski area
Tengendai Ski area
Tengendai Kogen Plateau
Whether you can enjoy “yukimi-roten” or not depends on the weather. If you can see a high wall of accumulated snow, you are lucky.
With some of the buildings over 200 years old, you may feel like that you have travelled back in time with the whole town.
The local specialty is Yonezawa beef, which is considered one of the “Three Best Wagyu” brands in Japan. People enjoy it in the form of shabu-shabu or sukiyaki.
Tokyo Sta. -> 125 min by Yamagata Shinkansen -> Yonezawa Sta. -> 50 min by bus
There is a complimentary shuttle bus service from Yonezawa Station to inns in the town. For details, please contact respective inns.
Tourism Division, Yonezawa City Hall
From the editor
Some of the historical onsen inns are not fully equipped with modern facilities, such as air-conditioning and shower facilities, which may at first seem inconvenient and not appealing. However, such an inn actually makes your trip extraordinary and gives you a chance to experience a comfortable way of living utilizing the old wisdom of Japan.
*The information herein is as of October 2019.